Kicking off Royal Ascot with action plays in Coventry, St James's Palace

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

June 19th, 2017

Thirty races spread over five days, two-thirds of which are group events with large fields. Diving into Royal Ascot is a pleasure, but can also be mind-numbing and overwhelming with all the research that goes into making what we hope are educated picks.

For most of the present decade, Kellie Reilly and I have split up duties as far as making and offering Royal Ascot selections at (we'll also be incorporating into the rotation this year). Days 1, 2 and 5 have been Kellie's domain, while I relieve her on Days 3 and 4.

You can read Kellie's overview of the three Group 1 stakes on Day 1 as well as an in-depth look at the Coventry (G2) for two-year-olds here at the TwinSpires blog.

I generally play more on the days I cover (3 & 4) just because I've put in the extra research, but I do take a strong glance at the cards Kellie works on for action plays. You just never know which day of Royal Ascot might be your luckiest.

I'm taking a couple contrary views for Tuesday's opening card:

Race 2 -- Coventry (G2) -- This traditional juvenile highlight perhaps won't prove to be as wide open as it looks on paper, but I've been fairly impressed with the way one of the entrants has looked so far. Handicapping British racing is different from American racing, and in dealing with two-year-old races at Royal Ascot I've often incorporated my visual opinions into my final selection process.

He's not fancied in the ante-post market nor have his efforts to date been highly rated by the traditional services, but I've liked the way Headway (#9, 20-1) has moved in his two starts. He seemed fairly relaxed early in his April 21 debut at Newbury, eased into contention inside the final quarter-mile and found only one better in a neck defeat while galloping out well.

He next raced at Chester for a purse of approximately $25,000 U.S., relatively significant given the so-so prize money generally on offer in England on non-sponsored race days. He ran like a 4-5 shot should, winning by three lengths after a showing a quick little burst turning for home and being eased up a bit in the final yards.

A primary knock is that the form of both races has not held up. The Newbury maiden winner Gold Town subsequently lost to Rajasinghe (#14, 10-1) and early Coventry favorite Brother Bear (#3, 9-2), while Chester runner-up Knockout Blow has been unplaced in two other starts.

Nonetheless, I'm willing to take a shot with him for my first action bet of the meet. For what it's worth, his Group 1 winning sire, Havana Gold, won at Ascot over seven furlongs in his second career start at two.

Race 4 -- St James's Palace (G1) -- As I did in the 2000 Guineas (G1) in early May, I'll stand against Churchill (#2, 3-5) with Barney Roy (#1, 2-1). The latter didn't have a strong pace at which to run at over the Rowley Mile and also seemed to get unbalanced on that course. With only two prior runs beforehand, he was conceding plenty of experience to Churchill, and perhaps the one-length margin between the two will be diminished as this colt has been aimed for this run since that second-place finish.

The full schedule, including post times, is accessible on the Royal Ascot page, and free Brisnet past performances for Tuesday's card are available here.